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Raising a glass to new releases

Published Dec 10, 2009

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Sprigs Entertain

(Jacana)

Sprigs in Kloof is one of Durban's most popular eateries, not only because of their fabulous food, but also because of the wide variety of decadent relishes, accompaniments and other goodies in stock.

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Now, inspired by their many years in the food business, the chefs and brains behind Sprigs, Clare and Fiona Ras, have put together Sprigs Entertain.

It is a beautiful compilation of Sprigs' recipes which are subdivided into food for the morning, noon, and night. Each section is further subdivided along regional or other themes, like Flavours of Spain, No Fuss Entertaining or Great Outdoors.

My only gripe with this cookbook is that the illustrations are not always featured alongside the corresponding recipe, and not all of the recipes include photographs.

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In Fusion

(Jacana)

Shane Sauvage's second cookbook, In Fusion, is a decadent tribute to the eclectic South African palate. Experimenting with a variety of cooking styles, but still essentially South African, Savage has created a gorgeously illustrated book with A4-sized photographs illustrating every recipe, plus other accompanying images capturing the preparation process. The result is a feast for the eyes and a mouth-watering inspiration to get cooking. This book is a celebration of good, indulgent food.

My Hungry Heart

(Venture Publications)

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Like Namibia, the home country of author Antoinette de Chavonne Vrugt, the recipes in this book are "rustic and unpretentious", the sort you could rustle up even in the great outdoors. But, like cuisine of all countries, the recipes featured here have evolved and fused, resulting in a diverse collection. De Chavonne Vrugt, however, has included authentic Namibian specialties like stokbrood (stick bread) and roosterkoeke, a traditional Afrikaans favourite which is cooked on an open fire.

Gatherings

(Human and Rousseau)

His public image may be flamboyant and over the top, but this book of TV personality Nataniel's recipes for every occasion oozes class and sophistication. Elegantly presented, even a boy's birthday party gets the special treatment with chocolate star cakes and panini burgers. Clearly the type to use any occasion to entertain, Nataniel has covered it all from Valentine's Day and a picnic for a princess, to a stork tea with men and Christmas Eve.

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I Know How to Cook

(Phaidon)

Known as the bible of French cooking, this book was first published in 1932 but has been revised and updated several times since then to remain the most comprehensive and authoritative book on cuisine from France. With French cooking regarded as the basis of all good cooking, the latest edition of this book would make for a great Christmas gift. I Know How to Cook is among several cookbooks which have been in print for a long time and are considered the best cookery books of their region, which will be released this holiday. The others in the series are The Silver Spoon of Pasta, The Silver Spoon of Pasta for Children, The Silver Spoon, and 1080 Recipes. Many of these have been translated into English for the first time.

Wine Books

The Essential Guide to South African Wines: Terroir & Travel (Cheviot Publishing) is the second edition of the ground-breaking illustrated guide on the country's premium wines and presents the wine-producing regions in an uncomplicated wine-pockets system.

Individual pockets - or regions - highlight a specific terroir (a French term used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestows on particular wine varieties) unit along with local wine styles that provide insight into the unique qualities of each wine-producing area.

The book, by Elmari Swart and Izak Smit, is divided in such a way that visitors to the Cape winelands can select an area, jump into their car and savour a day-drive fully equipped with information on the region to which they are travelling. Detailed relief maps provide GPS co-ordinates that are supported by downloadable waypoints and routes on the website www.cheviot-publishing.com.

Each section provides users with a meaningful and holistic journey that discovers the terroir, viticulture, wine-making techniques and flagship wines produced from each winery. The wine-tasting chapter opens the world to understanding and serving wine, while the chapter on building and maintaining a South African wine collection provides invaluable information on buying, vintage references, food and wine pairing and the tricky question of wine and chocolate.

It details how people cultivating an interest in wine can take their knowledge from merely drinking wines and hoping to find ones they love to appreciating the entire spectrum of wines and thus gain a deeper insight into those they do want to include in their cellar.

The guide is punctuated by more than 300 commissioned photographs and full-colour illustrations to entice users to drive into the countryside and visit the sites of great wines.

One criticism is that the book has spelling mistakes that detract from the high quality of its presentation.

Another downside may be that this guide is too comprehensive - it is literally filled with writing so cannot be deemed a quick guide to the area. That means decision-making on where to go must have been made fairly far in advance rather than on the run, but this remains a fresh approach to wineland reviews.

Supermarkets have become substantial wine retailers with Spar, Makro and Checkers this year dominating the annual Nederburg Auction to acquire 38 percent of the sales. Yet the consumer perception that supermarkets cannot be providers of quality wine coupled with the array of bottles on the shelves pose a daunting task to shoppers keen to include quality and/or value-for-money wine purchases alongside their weekly groceries.

It is into this framework that Michael Olivier, Neil Pendock and Anebal Coutinho (Whisk Publications) have brought The People's Guide - Navigate the Winelands in a Shopping Trolley to the market. The guide is specifically geared to consumers and uses visual appeal (bright colours and bottle shots) rather than lengthy, wordy descriptions to convey its message.

The formidable tasting team that also included Warwick estate founder Norma Ratcliffe, British-born and trained industry guru Cathy Marston and Cape Town sommelier David Msebi blind-tasted more than 1 260 wines in six days to select their noteworthy 500.

Wines are grouped together in varietals as shoppers would find them on the supermarket shelves and according to price brackets - under R50, R50-R100 and over R100 - with brief commentary on first impressions, the taste, an author's quote and a general knowledge snippet about the winery.

The small print includes the alcohol levels, region of origin and residual sugar for those enthusiasts keen to lodge the technical stuff into their brains.

However, the authors acknowledged that with wine there is no right or wrong answer and each taster was encouraged to flag wines with a personal seal of approval. Throughout the guide a host of wines have been honoured with the label Coup de Coeur - literally a blow to the heart - as a wine that stands out in the crowd.

The People's Guide 2010 excluded faulty, boring or "hopelessly overpriced" wines, with the authors indicating that each bottle featured was one they would be happy to buy themselves - from the Two Oceans Pinot Noir 2008 at R28 a bottle to more prestigious offerings retailing for several hundred rands but worth their price tag.

This guide is meant to be a working book lugged to the supermarket and consulted with relish. Its appeal is its visual presentation and ease of reference and it should definitely be kept in the cubby-hole of the car so as not to be forgotten when you arrive at the supermarket.

The Wine Tourism Handbook (The World's Favourite Publications) is the fifth edition of the book promoted as the ultimate guide to the Cape winelands and is presented as a nine-chapter paperback covering a range of wine tourism aspects. Included in its easy-to-read style and presentation is a glossary of common wine terms, information on some of the most popular varietals and tips for getting the best out of the winelands experience.

The chapters are divided into wine routes, and the final chapter offers consumers an easy wine guide with options from each region across the price brackets. It is edited by Nicci Botha.

A description of each winery as well as attractions and some personal recommendations are featured throughout the guide, which is beautifully illustrated with colour photographs. Embracing 21st century navigations, the GPS co-ordinates, e-mail addresses and website details are also included.

Colours are allocated to each chapter and maintained throughout the book to maximise cross-referencing. Maps and cellar door details for farms along the wine routes correspond with grid reference numbers.

The two chapters on wining and dining and outdoor activities broaden the winelands experience with information on food and wine pairing, cheeses, olives, berries and alternatives to wine tasting. Information abounds on diving with sharks, 4x4 trails, nature trails and bird sanctuaries.

The section on out-of-the-ordinary offers users access to grape stomping, sabrage (the ancient art of removing the top of champagne bottles with a sabre), township wine tours, scenic vineyard walks and a high tea with a difference - a ladies-only mechanic workshop covering basic vehicle checks, changing tyres and the significance of those warning lights before savouring high tea in the manor house.

This well-presented guide offers snippets of information not found in many of its contemporary publications.

The quintessential guide to the South African wine industry,this year's Platter's South African Wines 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of Platter's on to the local wine scene. The 2010 edition is a comprehensive review of the country's cellars, vineyards, winemakers, restaurants and accommodation in the winelands.

There is an amusing reflection from John and Erica Platter, the original tasters and writers of the guide, on how they conceived the initiative in 1978 when they were "young and carefree". They had bought a small vineyard in Franchhoek, but in warding off penury, needed to write, too, and the concept of a South African wine guide in which John had tasted each entry came into being.

They had drawn their inspiration from a similar guide produced by Hugh Johnson, so it is fitting that the leading UK wine writer provides the preamble for the current edition. The couple sold the rights to the guide several years ago, but "continue to applaud proudly from the sidelines".

This edition embraces 21st century technology with a simultaneous release of a mobile version for the Apple iPhone and iPod, but that does not detract from the original Platter's objective - being a comprehensive guide to the winelands and its products.

More than 6 000 wines, 800 wineries and brands, including more than 50 new ones, and extensive and up-to-date information on where to go and what to do in the wine country are held within its tome-like 600 pages.

With a strong focus on next year's Fifa World Cup, the guide includes a full-colour gallery plus extended coverage within the A-Z directory of the events, attractions and amenities to be offered by individual wine cellars during the soccer tournament.

In addition to its five-star ratings awarded to 41 entries, the guide identifies several entry-level wines promising exceptional drinkability and value-for-money, 64 highly recommended wines and a selection of more than 100 wines showing particular potential for cellaring. Edited by Phillip van Zyl

Prawn and Butternut Soup (My Hungry Heart)

1kg butternut, cubed

30ml lime juice

salt and pepper

1 kg prawns, cleaned

1 lemon juice and zest

1 lemon grass stalk, sliced

5ml fresh ginger, chopped

30ml soya sauce

1 onion, chopped

5ml sugar

5ml garlic, chopped

2 tins coconut milk

1 tin water

dash of sesame oil

15ml red curry paste

Cover butternut cubes with lime juice and soya sauce. Fry onion in sesame oil. Add garlic, ginger and lemon grass and mix with onion. Add butternut with juices. Add red curry paste, 1 tin of coconut milk and 1 tin of water and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and pinch of sugar, lemon juice and zest of lemon.

Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until butternut is soft. Add prawns and the last tin of coconut milk. Simmer with the lid off until prawns turn pink.

This is a chunky soup that can be served as is. If you prefer a smooth soup liquidise ingredients before you add the prawns.

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